Gina Prince-Bythewood on busting down barriers with ‘The Old Guard’: ‘There’s a lot of pressure’

The acclaimed director dished on her latest project for Netflix

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Gina Prince-Bythewood is receiving rave reviews for her latest project, The Old Guard, and the Netflix film marks the first time a Black woman has helmed a comic book flick. 

theGrio caught up with the director who brought us Love & Basketball to find out how she shattered the box Hollywood always seems to want to keep Black women in. 

Read More: ‘The Old Guard’ illuminates the new way Black women are winning

“The beautiful thing about getting this project…so many women I know want this opportunity but what we get told is ‘you haven’t done action, so we don’t know that you can do it,’ so we don’t get the gig,” Prince-Bythewood explains. 

“For this, SkyDance reached out to me because they loved ‘Love and Basketball and ‘Beyond the Lights.’ They wanted that kind of esthetic into this film. So that meant I was stepping into a very warm, receptive room and it was at that point what so many of us say is just ‘let us in the room and then we’re going to show you we could do it.’ It really is honestly Hollywood catching up to where we already are.” 

5th Annual Athena Film Festival Ceremony & Reception
Gina Prince-Bythewood speaks on stage at the 5th Annual Athena Film Festival Ceremony

Even though Prince-Bythewood has been making amazing movies like Love & Basketball and The Secret Life of Bees for years, she admits she had to conquer some fears to step up to the task of commanding a big budget action film. 

“You’ve got to have confidence in your skills and your craft, whether that’s the athlete mentality. You know, Serena [Williams] will say, ‘I want to be number one,’ and people get on her for being cocky. But why wouldn’t she want to aspire to that?” she says. “So, you know, I aspire to that. I want to be in this big sandbox and do it. Of course, there’s you know, there is fear but that’s not a bad thing because fear is what pushes you, what makes you step up, which makes you put in the work because it is– it is a lot.”

She continues, “These films on this level, there’s a lot of pressure. But I took it on because I was passionate about the story, passionate about the characters. I love what it had to say. I love the dramatic elements so much. I love this character Nile, this Black female hero that we’ve got to put in the world who embodied what bad ass is to me, which is not just strength and swagger, but also empathy and vulnerability. All of those things were Nile. And again, I was excited to be able to put that into the world.”

Read More: Kiki Layne stars in Gina Prince Bythewood flick ‘The Old Guard’

In The Old Guard, Kiki Layne more than holds her own alongside Hollywood heavyweights like Charlize Theron and Chiwetel Ejiofor as Nile, the kick-ass soldier with tons of heart. 

“We see these characters going through things that we all very much so understand and recognize. Even though we’re not immortal, it doesn’t mean that we don’t understand grief…that we don’t understand pain, loss and loneliness,” Layne told theGrio

“I think that’s one of the things that was really special about jumping into this world and being able to play this role is that I get to do all those super cool action stuff and shooting stuff and blowing things up, but at the heart of it, I’m playing a woman that’s really going through some things that a lot of us understand and recognize,” she continues.

“I think that’s what, you know, is one of the things that can really pull you into it, because you see things that you know from your own life and with Nile, seeing someone experiencing something that and I think a lot of us recognize this, is when life just throws something at you that completely catches you off guard. And now you have to change your whole way of looking at life and moving through life because of that thing.”

Check out the full interview above.

The Old Guard is streaming now on Netflix. 

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